Mini-Series: Issues in Educational Inequality (2 of 4)

College Dropout in the United States, 1980-2010: Persistent Problems and Inequalities

A PSC Brown Bag Seminar

Mike Hout (NYU, Sociology)

Monday, 4/9/2018, 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm.   ARCHIVED EVENT

Location: 1430 ISR - Thompson

The paper is joint with Kim Voss and Kristin George. It is a major revision and overhaul of a paper we gave at RC28 in 2015.

We integrate the three NCES panels (HSB, NELS, and ELS) to estimate change in the socioeconomic differentials in college drop out and find no change. We then partition the gross SES differences by stages, into portions mediated by high school academics, the college application and selection process, and institutional features of the college attended.

Our two big points are:
Current discussion overstates the relevance of financial issues like tuition given that SES differences were just as big when tuition was much lower.

Students who start at community colleges are still less likely to graduate than are otherwise comparable students who start their postsecondary education at BA-granting colleges. BUT the community college handicap is substantially lower than it was in the 1980s.

We argue that educational opportunity, even at the level of earning a college degree is unequal for reasons that are correlated with money but not about the money per se. Selective colleges and universities offset money difficulties by bundling institutional financial aid with federal and state financial aid to enroll the students they select. The selection process itself moves too many working and lower-middle class kids down the hierarchy of colleges and universities. Consequently, the students who could use the most support attend colleges that offer the least support. Too many of them drop out due to overcrowding, lack of counseling, and similar deficiencies that compound the risks they enter with. We call on college admissions offices in the most selective (and best-endowed) universities to think more like human capital venture capitalists -- to by-pass more "sure things," figuring they will succeed on their own, and take risks on more students at the margin of being admitted or not.

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Mike Hout uses demographic methods to study social change in inequality, religion, and politics. He is co-principal investigator on the General Social Survey (GSS), a long-running NSF project. His current work uses the GSS to study changing occupational hierarchies and social mobility since 1972. He is organizing through a National Academy of Sciences standing committee, the American Opportunity Study, an inquiry into long-term trends in social mobility based on census records linked across generations. With Kim Voss and Kristin George, he has studied college dropout and completion between 1982 and 2004. Mike’s books include Century of Difference (with Claude Fischer, 2006), The Truth about Conservative Christians (with Andrew Greeley, 2006), Inequality by Design (with five Berkeley colleagues, 1996), Following in Father's Footsteps: Social Mobility in Ireland (1989), and Mobility Tables (1983). A couple of illustrative papers include “Social and Economic Returns to Higher Education in the United States" (2012), "The Demographic Imperative in Religious Change” (with Greeley and Wilde, 2001) and "How 4 Million Irish Immigrants Came to be 40 Million Irish Americans" (with Goldstein, 1994). Mike Hout's honors include election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1997, the National Academy of Sciences in 2003, and the American Philosophical Society in 2006. Mike's education includes a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh in history and sociology and masters and PhD from Indiana University in sociology. Before coming to NYU in 2013, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1985 to 2013, and the University of Arizona from 1976 to 1984.

PSC Brown Bag seminars highlight recent research in population studies and serve as a focal point for building our research community. PSC Brown Bag Archive.

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